Category Archives: Communities

10 Tips for Your Year-End Giving Campaign

2017 is quickly coming to an end! Before you know it, we’ll be saying “Happy New Year” and plans for 2018 will be underway.

blog infographic 1We’re heading into the season of giving. It is that time of year where donor dollars increase significantly. Year-end giving trends suggest that nearly one third of annual giving happens in December.

At Transform Consulting Group, we highlighted tips for ending your fiscal year strong in this blog. One way to finish the year on a high note, is to kick off a year-end campaign with these simple tips:

  1. Start Planning Now: You can’t wait until the last few weeks of December to reach out to donors or to make the first “ask.” Get a plan in place today that you can implement over the next few weeks.

  2. Send Something: Whether it’s a holiday greeting in the mail or an email blast wrapping up the year, your current donors need to hear from you. You can highlight an accomplishment from this year, share a specific need heading into the New Year, or just thank the donor for their past generosity. Most likely your donors are hearing from other organizations too, and you need to be on their radar.blog infographic 2

  3. Engage Volunteers: Take the time to appreciate your volunteers this year. Thank them for the time they
    invested in your organization. You may even decide to give a special gift to those who met X amount of service hours. Volunteers are twice as likely to donate to your organization. These are the people who are already engaged in your mission and have seen first-hand the work you do. 

  4. Enlist Your Board: Your board of directors can be your biggest asset this time of year. Have board members write personal thank you notes, make phone calls or accompany you to meetings with donors.

  5. Segment Your Contact List: Your strategy should be different for different donors or partners. Organize your contacts into specific lists and plan your approach for each group such as: major donors, once a year donors, volunteers, alumni (past clients if appropriate), board, etc.

  6. Go Visual: Create consistent images and visuals for all aspects of your campaign. Try highlighting major accomplishments or data using infographics (check out our blog series on infographics here). Feature client success stories and quotes with photos (if appropriate). Create images and banners to display on all social media platforms. You can even set up a microsite just for your holiday campaign that clearly showcases your goals and progress over the next few weeks.

  7. Plan A Giving Day: We highlighted tips for implementing your own “Giving Day” in this blog. This can be a unique day that your organization chooses to ramp up efforts or you may decide to take advantage of Giving Tuesday. Regardless of what you choose, make sure you continue promoting your cause until December 31st. Surveys show 12% of funding comes in during the last 3 days of the year, so you shouldn’t just rely on one day for giving, but it can be a great tool to kickstart your efforts.

  8. Make It Easy To Give: Provide your donors with several options for giving and make the options clear! Create a button on your website for donations. Have a link on your social media pages that directs followers to give. Send pre-stamped envelopes for those donors who you know would rather give via check or cash.

  9. Focus On Donor Stewardship: It’s very rare that you can ask a person for money, and they give it to you on the spot. You need to steward a relationship with them first. Build trust and learn about the causes they are interested in. Donor stewardship is important for engaging new donors but also for helping to move current donors to the next level of giving. Don’t expect that your holiday postcard sent in December will be enough to gain significant traction. Make plans to meet up with specific people who you know can give more or should be giving period. Start those conversations today.
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  10. Make It Personal: Regardless of what methods you use to ask for gifts (email blast, mailings, one-on-one meetings), you need to bring the focus back to the people you serve and causes you are working to impact. Put a face to your mission and make it personal. Share specific stories of how your programs changed a family’s life. Introduce a donor to that single mom who went back to school. Highlight exactly where the donor’s dollars are going and who will be impacted. Along with the personal anecdotal stories, don’t forget to include your outcome results. Need help with having good data to share? Check out this blog or our services.

At Transform Consulting Group, we understand the many challenges that organizations face and often it begins with funding limitations. We want to work with you on ways to maximize your funding, so that you can move your cause forward. We love thinking outside of the box to come up with unique ways to engage current and new donors. Contact us today and let’s put your year-end campaign into motion!

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Is it time to redesign your program?

Organizations – public and private – go through different stages of development.  During this life cycle, it is not uncommon for an organization to update or modify their programs and services.  At the same time, however, some organizations can be stagnant and need to update their programs. time 3How do you know when it is time for your organization to refresh your program?

Below are three questions you should ask yourself to determine if it is time to update your program.

  1. Are we making the impact that we hoped to make?
  2. Is our program aligned with the latest research?
  3. Is our program meeting the needs of the target population?

If you answer no to any of these questions, then it might be time to seriously review your program. You may not need a complete redesign of your program, but it’s time to reevaluate.

When we have worked with other organizations to help them improve their impact by updating their program model, there have been a range of changes that we proposed implementing to achieve their results.

In one case, we worked with a large volunteer literacy tutoring program who was not making the impact they had hoped to make.  Through our assessment, we proposed the following changes that were then implemented:

  • Clarify the target population – we learned that the target population to enroll in and receive this literacy tutoring program needed to be more focused.  Students who were reading just below grade level benefited the most from this program.  Students who were more than one grade level behind were not a good fit for this type of tutoring program.  
  • Strengthen the curriculum and training – Since this program relies on volunteers – non-professional educators –  to deliver the tutoring, the curriculum is critical.  After researching other effective literacy tutoring programs delivering the impact we had hoped, we saw a theme in the curriculum and instructional practices that they were implementing.  We adopted a specific model of instruction and updated the training for volunteers.
  • Expand the capacity – the need for this organization’s work was high in the community, but their ability to meet the need was limited to the available volunteers.  They were interested in expanding their capacity through AmeriCorps members who would be able to significantly expand the number of students enrolled in and benefiting from the program.  We helped them determine how AmeriCorps members could enhance the staff capacity of their program and restructure the program model.

With another client who is working to help get first generation college graduate students, they were struggling to deliver the outcomes to their funders.  As we started helping them pull their program data together, the results were not what they had hoped.  After reviewing the data and the program activities, it did not take long to identify some gaps and opportunities in the program.  From our work, we proposed and helped them implement the following changes:

  • Develop new curriculum – Over the years as new staff have worked on the program, the curriculum had “evolved” into a hodge podge of worksheets and lesson plans that were slightly modified each year.  There was not a clear alignment of the curriculum with the identified outcomes.  Rather than modifying what they had in place, we decided to start over in developing a new curriculum that clearly aligned to the outcomes and would be “turn key” for staff to implement.
  • Align multiple programs – This organization operated a school-year program as well as a summer program.  Both programs shared similar objectives of helping get more first generation college graduates.  However, they operated as two separate programs.  We initially started to focus on the school-year program but quickly realized that the “dosage” or impact potential with the summer program was much more focused (40 hours x 6 weeks = 240 hours of “intervention” versus 1.5 hours x 32 weeks = 48 hours of “intervention”).  When we combined the two programs as one overall program, we expanded the “dosage” exposure as well as the possibilities of impact.
  • Focus the target population – The organization was working with multiple schools across a city.  In some cases, it was a middle school in one district and a high school in another district.  Instead, we targeted 2 districts and ensured that we had the middle schools that fed into the high schools for continuity purposes since this program enrolled 7th – 12th grade students with the goal of students enrolling each year.  This change provided efficiencies for the staff and also helped ensure that the students targeted for the program would receive the greatest exposure of enrolling multiple years.

In today’s information era, there is more research that is available to inform our work and ensure that we are implementing best practice strategies to affect change.  In addition, the populations and communities that organizations are serving are changing, and need to evolve with them.  Lastly, local, state and federal policies and priorities are shifting.  Organizations that can adapt to this changing environment can grow and potentially expand their impact.

If you want help assessing the shifting landscape in your community or industry, or you answered ‘no’ to one of the three questions above, then contact us.  We would love to learn more about your program and goals to see how we could support you.

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Plan a “Giving Day” to Raise Funds and Build Awareness

Are you tired of putting so much time and energy into another fundraising event? Maybe you’re going to the same donors repeatedly asking for money, and you want to start broadening your reach. Many organizations across the country are jumping on the concept of a “Giving Day.” A Giving Day is a day-long online fundraising effort that unites a community around local causes. It’s an initiative that many non-profit organizations and educational institutions are utilizing to diversify their funding streams.Giving Day 2

Unlike your typical fundraising in-person event, Giving Days are focused primarily online. There is usually a landing page for giving and then social media outlets are utilized to build hype and engage an audience.

Benefits of a Giving Day
  1. It’s more than fundraising: A Giving Day is not just a fundraiser, but it’s an awareness campaign. A Giving Day allows you the opportunity to share your mission, your organization’s story and purpose all day long.
  2. It’s more accessible: The advantage of hosting a Giving Day over an event is that people can engage on THEIR time. They don’t have to drive to a certain location or schedule a 2-hour timeslot. They can hop on their social media channels to watch interviews, read testimonials, and choose to give when it’s convenient for them.
  3. It broadens your audience: You don’t have to limit yourself to your local community. With an online campaign you can engage EVERYONE! You can reach people across the state, the country or the world through one simple click on their computer.
  4. It builds momentum: The task of planning a Giving Day can be daunting during year one. However, this is a campaign you revisit every year. Once you have the plan in motion and start building excitement, each year gets easier.

WDM Creative, a public relations and creative firm, wrapped up another successful Giving Day Campaign with the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indianapolis (RHI) on September 22nd. They have created a systematic approach and strategy to tackling Giving Days. They graciously shared some insight on their process.

Giving Day “Must Haves”
  1. 6 Months for Planning: WDM President Lori Winkler suggests a 6-month timeline to adequately plan your Giving Day. This time leading up to your actual day of giving is a great opportunity to build excitement and start promoting your campaign.
  2. Sponsorships & Match Dollars: It’s important to have some dollars planned before the actual Giving Day rolls around. Talk to corporations to partner with you, not just on the day of giving, but during the months leading up to the event! Have conversations with donors who may be willing to offerGiving Day 1 matches or incentives throughout your full Giving Day to build excitement or competition.
  3. Website Platform: It’s important to have a landing page up and running months prior to your Giving Day. Update content regularly as you nail down the schedule of the day or new corporate partners. Then have another page ready for the actual Giving Day where people can start making donations and see the money being raised in real time. Make sure your platform can handle the influx of visitors. Your 24-hour giving period is not the time for technical malfunctions!
  4. Social Media: Amp up your social media engagement for months prior to the Giving Day. You can create a Facebook Event like WDM did with RHI’s Giving Day. They also utilized Facebook Live and had hourly interviews with a variety of key stakeholders to share their story about the impact of the cause: patients, staff, researchers, donors, etc.
  5. Marketing Plan: You’ll want to develop a brand specifically for your Giving Day. Create logos, collateral material, etc. that accurately describes your organization and the goal of your Giving Day. These are all tools you can then reuse every year.
  6. Manpower: Whether you’re able to bring on a team like WDM or have a committee of volunteers, understand that you’ll need manpower to plan your day just as you would for an event. Even though your main focus is your online engagement, you may want a hub to generate excitement locally. This hub serves as a place for people to bring in cash donations and/or interviews to take place. If you’re hosting it at your organization, it is a great visual for staff or clients who walk through your doors daily. You may want an Emcee, someone who can shoot video for live Facebook interviews, people monitoring social media platforms and posting updates.
  7. Day Schedule: Plan out your day and market the schedule. Maybe you’ll host small competitions or matching opportunities. If there is a timeframe that you want to ramp up donations, consider providing a gift or incentives to donors during that time. If you have a special spokesperson that you’ll be interviewing live, then communicate often when viewers can tune in

At WDM, they have found that Giving Days not only lead to new donors, but also elevates current donors’ giving. It’s a great strategy for an organization who is willing to think outside the box to accelerate impact.

If you’re looking for new strategies to fundraise, contact us today and we’d love to chat about our services!

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4 Steps for Creating an Op-Ed Campaign

Is there a cause or issue you’re tackling, and you want to raise public awareness? We talked about gaining media attention by writing press releases in this blog as a way to help communicate your organization’s efforts to your community. Another strategy for building awareness around your work is to kick off an op-ed campaign.

An op-ed is an opinion piece written by a freelance writer, usually on behalf of an organization or nonprofit.
ANYONE can write an op-ed, and it can be a great strategy for educating the public on a cause, an event or sharing opinions about an issue.Op-Ed Blog

Too often nonprofits are so focused on providing great services and programs that they forget about educating others in the community about the important issues they are working to address. You don’t need a marketing firm to implement this work if you follow the steps below.

  1. Narrow your focus

What do you want your op-eds to communicate? While you may have several people contributing letters with different angles (see step 2), you want to communicate a consistent message. Even though the letters submitted will come from a variety of people with various angles, they must have this consistent theme throughout.

  1. Brainstorm possible writers

The number of writers and op-eds aren’t as important as who you choose to write. It is important to have a diverse group of writers who are well-respected and well-known people in your community. You want writers who the public will listen to. You also want different backgrounds and angles so that at the end of your op-ed campaign, you have communicated the FULL story.

The “messengers” are just as important as the “message”. You should think about having folks on the receiving end of your services, if appropriate, share their perspective. You will also want to have unusual stakeholders contribute. For a campaign to raise awareness about early learning, you might want to have your chamber write an op ed about how it affects workforce development.

  1. Determine your writing process

Once you determine your writers, spend time creating a systematic process. We recommend these steps to get you started:

  • Outreach: Someone needs to make the formal “ask.” This could be a staff member, volunteer, or donor, but it’s helpful that the “ask” comes from someone who already has a relationship with your prospect.
  • Educate: Make sure the writer understands your overall goals. Provide the writer with background information and possible data to incorporate in their letter. Brainstorm specific talking points and the angle you want them to take. The more information you can provide, the more likely they are to stay on message and align with your overall goals.
  • Create a template: While you want the writer to feel free to express their own thoughts and opinions, it is helpful to create an outline, talking points or template for them to follow. This will keep them on track and alleviate any confusion they may have as they begin the writing process. Think of some of the questions they may ask: How long should my letter be? What is the timeline? What areas should I focus on? What is the call to action or conclusion?

    Creating a tips sheets for writing op-eds will help your writers draft a compelling story that will engage the audience.
  • Edit: Decide who will edit the letters and make sure they explain any suggested changes to the writer. You want the writer to stay engaged throughout the entire process, and you want them to feel proud to have their name attached to the final piece.
  • Submit the letter: Determine who will submit the letters, and where they will be submitted. In some communities, newspapers ONLY accept letters from locals. Do your research on the submission process and any requirements.

    If the writer is submitting the letter, provide them clear steps for submitting it with all contact information for the local newspapers to make the process as simple as possible.
  1. Maintain authenticity

Real people are going to be attaching their names to these op-eds, and you want their personal voices to shine. Encourage your writers to share real-life examples and their personal experiences about how this issue has impacted them. Nobody wants to pick up the newspaper and read an op-ed that looks like a research paper. Ultimately, readers want a story that engages them and relates to them.

At Transform Consulting Group, we want to help you communicate your work and build awareness for the important causes you’re working to address. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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Two-Generational Approach for Greater Impact

There are amazing organizations working hard to support the development and achievements of young children. Similarly, there are outstanding organizations working hard to connect adults with proper resources to attain success.

It might seem like supporting each of those populations separately would naturally complement the other. However, a recent reflection on this topic has shown that intentionally supporting the development and personal growth of the children and adults together (a two-generational approach) can have a larger, positive impact for both generations. By working simultaneously together, it ensures that programs and services are not fragmented and therefore do not leave either the child(ren) or adult(s) behind.

Research has documented the impact of a parent’s education level, financial stability, and even overall health as having a negative or positive impact on their child’s outcomes. Similarly, children’s education and healthy development have major implications for the parents.

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WHAT IS A TWO-GENERATIONAL APPROACH?

The Ascend program at the Aspen Institute gives an overview of a two-generational approach:

Two-generation approaches provide opportunities for and meet the needs of children and their parents together. They build education, economic assets, social capital, and health and well-being to create a legacy of economic security that passes from one generation to the next.”  

Ascend identifies four core components needed to create a successful two-generational approach:

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  1. Education
  2. Economic assets
  3. Social capital
  4. Health and well-being

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is another organization that has analyzed a two-generational approach and has outlined three key components:

  1. Provide parents with multiple pathways to get family-supporting jobs. This leads to achieving financial stability.

    – One study found that children whose family income was below the federal poverty level — which today      is about $24,000 for a family of four — completed fewer years of school, worked and earned less as adults, relied more on food assistance and suffered from poorer health than kids whose family income was at least twice that level. But an extra $3,000 annually for these families during a child’s earliest years could translate into an increase of more than 15 percent in what that same child earns as an adult.

  2. Ensure access to high-quality early childhood education and enriching elementary school experiences.

    – Greater coordination among early learning centers, schools and other programs for kids can further support healthy development from birth through the early elementary years.

  3. Equip parents to better support their children socially and emotionally and to advocate for their kids’ education.

     When parents are able to reduce their stress and anxiety, they can better respond to their children’s emotional needs.

Simply put, a two-generational approach looks at what both the parent(s) and child(ren) needs, and works to provide the necessary resources (education, healthcare, childcare, etc.) for both generations to be successful.

GREAT FAMILIES 2020

United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) is applying this emerging research of a two-generation approach and modeling it in their Great Families 2020 Social Innovation Fund initiative. Great Families 2020 is a five-year initiative aimed at improving family stability for vulnerable children and their parents living in four neighborhoods in Indianapolis. Great Families 2020 will be piloting a two-generation approach, where neighborhood networks in education (including high-quality early childhood education), financial stability (Center for Working Families), and health services are integrated to serve the whole family.

Funding for this initiative consists of a federal Social Innovation Fund grant totaling $7 million and matching dollars from the community for a total investment of approximately $20.6 million.

UWCI just announced their final four programs that will implement the Great Families model in their neighborhood.  Our President, Amanda Lopez, was invited to help select the community grantees.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

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Your organization may not have a multi-million dollar federal grant to implement this research, but there are still steps that you can take:

    1. Review the research. Become familiar with this approach and initiatives underway nationally and locally to stay informed. Knowledge is power!
    2. Review your current programs and funding focus. Perhaps you will see that you have fragmented services that are missing that other generation. Can you partner with other agencies to accelerate the accomplishment of your goals? Can you apply for funding that supports a two-generation approach?
    3. Reach out. Sometimes the best way to reflect on opportunities for growth is to connect with organizations that are successfully modeling your ideal funding stream/program/outreach strategy, etc. So use the research you will do to connect with organizations that are successfully using a two-generation approach to achieve greater impact to hear how they are doing it.

At Transform Consulting Group, our clients are working with both populations: young children and their parents.  We are helping our clients increase their partnerships internally within their organization or externally with other partners to improve outcomes for children and parents. If you are interested in learning more about two-generation approaches or funding opportunities to support your work, please contact us for a free consultation!

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Top Ten Do’s and Don’t’s of Hiring

As a small business owner, I have the opportunity to hire new team members.  I did not take any courses in college or graduate school that taught me how to hire staff.  (Sidebar, I did not even know I was going to be a businessHiring Blog image 2 owner back then!)  However, over the past several years I learned some key strategies on what to do and what not to do when hiring.

Do’s and Don’t’s of Hiring New Team Members

  1. Do: Before you even start the application process, you have to have a clear understanding of your organization’s needs and how this role will fill the gap.  If you are replacing an exiting employee, do you want your new hire to have the same skill set?  Is your organization going in a new direction, and you want your new hire to have a set of skills to support that new direction?  This type of analysis should help inform any revisions to the job posting and the questions you ask during the interview.
  2. Don’t: Use only the standard methods of sharing the job posting.  Know your audience and market to determine the best methods and platforms to share the job opening.  For some organizations, it makes sense to post ads in the local newspaper.  For others, posts on social media platforms and trade associations works better.At TCG, we use a mixed-methods approach of paying a nominal fee to post with a trade association for nonprofit organizations, announcing it in our electronic newsletter and sharing across our social media platforms.  Keep an eye on your response rate and be willing to adjust your methods to get the results needed.
  3. Do: Think beyond the content skills you are seeking to the soft skills necessary to be successful in your organization.  Our staff must be sharp and also have the disposition to work collaboratively internally with their team and externally with our clients.  Therefore, we need team members who have the “smarts” and are also great communicators, problem solvers and partners.
  4. Don’t: Use the standard interview and hiring process. Rethink the traditional interview process and assess how it is working for you.  Are there steps that you can eliminate and still get good results?We diligently scan the best applications and only select the ones who are possible candidates to go through to the first round, which is a phone interview.  After the first round, you may be able to stop here and make a decision.  There’s no reason to drag on the process if you know who to hire and don’t need more information.  This will save you and your team time and money. If you are still unsure, assign a “homework” task to the possible candidates.  This could include a short writing sample, data viz, or blog post – whatever is relevant to the nature of the job.  A “homework” assignment could be more revealing than a second interview and show how much they want the position as well as their skills in action.
  5. Do: Describe the work culture and environment that you have to offer.  More and more employees are looking for a job in a work environment that they will be motivated in and thrive.  Do staff work in their office by themselves all day, or is it a collaborative open space environment? Not all employees are successful in a collaborative, open environment.  More and more employees want a flexible work schedule, ability to work remotely, and collaborate with staff while still working independently.  Do you have a clear sense of your work environment, culture and who will and will not be a good fit?  To your best ability, describe it in your job description or during the interview process.
  6. Don’t: Use the standard interview questions: Where do you see yourself in five years; What are your strengths; What are your weaknesses? The answers are often scripted and don’t really provide the insight necessary. Really think about the skills needed to perform the job and ask questions that give you the information needed. Some of my favorite interview questions include: Is it better to be perfect and late, or good and on time?; We have to quickly learn about new industries and causes for our diverse clients. Tell me how you became informed and knowledgeable about a new issue area.  What would you do differently, if anything, the next time that you needed to learn something new?; Assume that you come to work here. One year from now you finish work one Friday evening thinking that accepting this job was the best thing you ever did. What happened during the year for you to feel that way?; Some of our team works remotely while others work in the office. This means you could be working independently for several days a week and then meeting with a client or a team member on the other days.  What experience do you have working in this type of environment and how would you be successful?
  7. Do: Be open to new possibilities.  In reviewing resumes and applications, the applicant may not “fit” the part on paper, but could be great in your company.  I look for skills that are transferable even if they are not in the same field or industry.  I also look for increasing leadership in the projects and experiences noted.  I have also learned that some more seasoned applicants are looking for career shifts and might be willing to take a pay cut to work with your organization that will help support their career shift.  Others might be looking for less responsibility and more work-life balance.  Don’t judge a book by its cover.
  8. Don’t: Ignore the applicants.  At every step of the hiring process, it is important to follow-up with all applicants.  Don’t leave anyone wondering if they made it to the next round or not.  I am shocked when I hear friends and colleagues share stories of interviewing for positions and then receiving no response.  I understand that the interview process might take longer to make a decision, so I will check in with the applicants and let them know it is taking longer or tell them then if they are no longer being considered.  I consider all potential applicants as possible clients or employees.  They may not be a fit for the position today, but could be in the future. They could also be a future client depending on their next job, so I want our company to be well represented throughout the interview process.
  9. Do: Say “no” when you know it is not a good fit.  In general, I am a nice person and have a hard time disappointing others. For some applicants, they will convince themselves that this is their dream job, and it is hard to turn someone down.  You will know almost immediately if someone is not the right fit through their application materials and the first interview.  Again, I consider our hiring process an outreach opportunity to meet new individuals in the field.  Therefore, I don’t want to burn any bridges, but at the same time I need to manage expectations for candidates who are not a good or right fit now.
  10. Don’t: Rush the hiring process.  It can be time consuming to thoughtfully review your organization’s needs and prepare a comprehensive job description and posting.  It takes significant time to read each applicant’s materials and respond to every applicant; to set up the interviews and write thoughtful interview questions; to determine the next steps in the hiring process (second interview or homework task); to follow-up with each applicant about next steps; to negotiate “win-win” offers; and to onboard new employees (which is a whole blog in itself!).  However, getting the right candidate is worth it if you invest your time in the front end of the hiring process.  This will hopefully result in more sustainability and productivity in your company, which is something we all want!

Like I said, I never set out to be a business owner hiring employees.  Now that I am in this position, I consider this an awesome responsibility and opportunity.  I have learned that each team member is an extension of our organization — our mission, values and priorities.  I want team members who will represent our organization well and be excited about our work. Learn more about our team and culture here and stay posted on any TCG job openings here

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4 Steps to Form an Early Childhood Coalition

You may have heard the term “coalition” and wondered what does that mean.  A coalition is simply when a group of people gather to address an issue that is bigger than what one person or organization can solve on their own. In Indiana, about thirty communities (cities, counties and regions) have formed a coalition that is focused on early childhood education.  Two years ago, it was probably about 15-20 Indiana communities with an early childhood coalition.  What is happening in Indiana and other states that is causing communities to come together around early childhood education and why should your community consider forming an early childhood coalition if you haven’t yet?

Coalition Trend

The idea of forming a coalition to address an issue is not new or specific to the early childhood field.  Coalitions are well used in other sectors, such as economic development, workforce development, and education.  What is somewhat new is the idea that organizations need to work with otherorganizations and stakeholders, often some unusual partners, to make 18403781_704582429702521_8230617511511406933_oprogress and realize their outcomes.  We talked about this in a past blog article here.

Early childhood education is complex and multifaceted.  It affects so many other sector’s goals: health, education, workforce, economics, and criminal justice.  As communities have started to organize around one of these other issues, such as a desire to increase their talent pipeline they realize that early childhood education can be a solution to address their goal.

Other states who have expanded public investments in early childhood education have expanded through local community coalitions, such as Michigan’s Great Start Communities.  The local community coalitions know the needs and assets in the community as well as the community’s culture to develop a vision and plan for action that makes the most sense.

Indiana has a strong value of local decision-making, and most of the state’s work is implemented regionally or locally.  There are also some natural partners and resources available in most communities – Community Foundation, United Way agency, and/or Economic Development group) – who are already aligned to supporting this work.  These organizations can make great conveners in communities to get a coalition started.

As Indiana has worked to expand state funded pre-k through On My Way Pre-K, it has done so through county-wide expansion efforts and not just grants to individual early childhood education programs.  In 2015, five counties (Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh) were designated On My Way Pre-K counties to receive state dollars to enroll low-income children in high quality pre-k.  In the most recent legislative session, an additional 15 counties (Bartholomew, DeKalb, Delaware, Elkhart, Floyd, Grant, Harrison, Howard, Kosciusko, Madison, Marshall, Monroe, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe and Vigo) were selected to be a part of the On My Way pre-k expansion effort.

A common thread in all of these selected On My Way Pre-K counties is that they have a coalition in place that is focused on early childhood education.  If your county has not been selected yet to participate in On My Way Pre-K, it might be time for your community to get ready for the next expansion opportunity.  

While we are working with state partners to build local capacity through the ELAC County Profiles, the Indiana Summit (discussed in this blog post) and a new ELAC Coalition Building Toolkit that will be released later this year, we also work locally with communities.  We recommend these steps for any community looking at forming a coalition, regardless of if the topic is early childhood education, workforce development or another issue area!
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  1. Collaborate

The first task is to identify the right people to address this compelling community issue and form your coalition.  In Wabash County, we formed an early childhood coalition that includes representatives from business, K12, health/mental health, criminal justice, philanthropy, higher education, local government, and early childhood
education.

  1. Assess

The second task is to make sure everyone is on the same page with their understanding of the community and issue area.  During this phase, your coalition should gather relevant key indicators from current community needs 18358873_704583986369032_6243592827544465858_oassessments and public data.  In addition, this is also the opportunity to gather feedback from a variety of key stakeholders relevant to the topic at hand through interviews, surveys, and focus groups.  During this step you will not only gather invaluable feedback but also start to build community will and buy in.  For the Wabash Early Childhood Coalition, we used the ELAC County Profiles and IYI Kids Count County Profile.  We also held focus groups with all types of parents, surveyed businesses and parents, and met individually with key stakeholders to collect their input on the current needs and strengths in the community.

  1. Facilitate Consensus

Too often community coalitions jump right into planning a project or initiative without thoughtfully completing the first steps above and having an intentional plan in place.  This step is critical to bring the coalition together in agreement about the focus of the coalition and its goals to accomplish. We suggest keeping the goals between 3-5, and they should be a combination of short-term “easy wins” that can be accomplished within the first year with minimal costs as well as some long-term goals that are broken out into specific action steps over time.  It is critical to have the short-term easy wins, so that the coalition builds credibility in the community that it is results focused and creates momentum.  It is also important to break down the steps needed to accomplish those big goals that will take more time and effort, so that they don’t get lost in being “too hard” or “not having enough money”.

  1. Create

Once your coalition has consensus on what it wants to do and an intentional plan in place, now it is time to put it in action.  Your coalition will need to determine who and how this plan will be implemented, which will include identifying a “backbone support” organization.  This might be one of the coalition members taking on the work and/or applying for funding to hire a staff person to implement.  During this phase, your coalition will want to build in some key outcomes that it is focused on tracking to be accountable for making progress on the issue on the identified.

When diverse stakeholders come together in agreement to address a common issue, transformational change can occur.  This is what gets us excited at Transform Consulting Group.  If your community would like assistance with a coalition, give us a call or send us a note.  We would love to learn more about what you are wanting to accomplish and how we might help!

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Event Spotlight: 2017 Indiana Coalition Summit

In this new blog series on community coalitions, we start by highlighting the recent Indiana Coalition Summit. Be on the lookout for future blog posts related to community coalitions!

In 2016, Transform Consulting Group managed the planning for the first annual Indiana Summit for Economic Development via Early Learning Coalitions (aka the Indiana Coalition Summit), hosted at the Horizon Convention Center in Muncie, in partnership with Muncie BY5, Early Learning Indiana, and Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC). This was the first statewide event dedicated to bringing together early learning, business, education, civic, and other community leaders to understand the business case for investment in early childhood. As well, the Indiana Coalition Summit delivered ways to develop and sustain an early learning coalition in one’s community, whether rural, suburban or urban. That gathering attracted over 500 attendees across all sectors and 2017 Summit Attendee Infographic (1)affirmed the need for early learning coalitions in the state.  

Continuing with that momentum, Transform Consulting Group led the planning and execution of the second annual Indiana Summit for Economic Development via Early Learning Coalitions, this time held on June 5, 2017 at the Monroe County Convention Center in Bloomington. The Summit attracted close to 400 attendees, many of them connecting to the Summit for the first time. This year, Transform Consulting Group and the planning team, consisting of representatives from Monroe Smart Start, Muncie BY5, ELAC, and Early Learning Indiana, honed in on connecting the “soft skills” (or executive functioning skills) that employers desire in today’s workforce with investing in early learning.

Featured Speakers

The morning of the Indiana Coalition Summit focused on building awareness around the need for early learning support, especially for the non-early-learning professionals in attendance. Erin Ramsey with Mind in the Making, The Bezos Family Foundation kicked off the day with a presentation outlining how investing in early learning shapes the workforce, linking executive functioning skills in children to skills desired by employees (i.e. reflecting, analyzing, and evaluating). This was followed by a short presentation about the current landscape for economic development and early learning from the State’s perspective by Kevin Bain, CEO and Executive Director of the Welborn Baptist Foundation in Evansville and the Chairman of ELAC.

In his presentation, Bain highlighted information shared in the most recent ELAC Annual Report including the online county profiles (now available through the ELAC website) about where Indiana currently is related to key early learning measures, and what Indiana should do to improve.

IMG_6207The lunch presentations kicked off with Jeffery Connor-Naylor from ReadyNation debuting a recent Indiana brief outlining how developing social-emotional skills in early childhood positively impacts future workforce success. Particularly,  the necessity of employees being capable of developing and sustaining relationships. The keynote presentation was given by Dr. Tim Bartik from the W.E. Upjohn Institute in which he made the economic case for investing in early learning. He shared data such as per dollar invested, early childhood programs increase the present value of state per capita earnings by $5.00 – $9.00. Dr. Bartik also shared that the costs for investing in early learning are modest, giving the example of universal full-day pre-K for 4-year-olds costs about 4% of what we pay for K-12.

Community Coalition Workshop Sessions

The afternoon breakout sessions focused on supporting attendees who are developing community early learning coalitions. These sessions were framed around the forthcoming Community Coalition Building Toolkit being developed by the ELAC Provider Participation and Advancement workgroup.

Transform Consulting Group’s President, Amanda Lopez, led the session “Creating a Collective Vision/Plan”, utilizing her experience developing strategic plans and working with community coalitions. In her presentation, Lopez reviewed the four steps of strategic planning (detailed in this previous blog): 1) Collaborate; 2) Assess; 3) Facilitate Consensus; and 4) Create the Plan.

The Indiana Summit for Economic Development via Early Learning Coalitions is a shining example of an event that brings together stakeholders from different sectors for a common goal: to have thriving communities by investing in early learning. It laid the groundwork for how to have different, and even unusual, partners work together while also giving attendees the chance to network and receive training on developing their community coalition.

If your organization is interested in connecting with or starting a community coalition with a focus on early learning, check out the resources available from the Indiana Coalition Summit on the Indiana Summit Resource Page or contact us at Transform Consulting Group to get connected!

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Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Enrollment in Your Program

Nonprofit organizations offer wonderful programs and services to help individuals with a variety of needs often at no or low cost.  It might be surprising to learn that some nonprofits struggle filling the spots for these services.  For example, a scholarship program is unable to distribute all of their funding due to a lack of applicants; a library summer reading program has free books to give away but not enough people show up; a community launches a “promise” program to promote college savings accounts with financial matches but parents don’t enroll.

An emerging concept in the social science arena is growing that combines the research of economics and behavior science called “behavioral economics”.  Through a meeting at the Wabash County YMCA with Duke University’s Common Cents Lab, some of the Transform Consulting Group team learned more about behavioral economics to improve program outcomes.

Now we realize that most nonprofits don’t have an economist on staff that could review their programs and services to implement behavioral science principles.  Fear not.  There are some simple solutions that all nonprofits could implement on their own – without an economist on staff – to increase their uptake or enrollment in programming utilizing these simple behavioral economic principles below.

5 Behavioral Economic Principles

  1. Action-Goals – People have good intentions, but they do notPicture1 do what they intend to do. For example, families want their children to go to college and intend to put some money away in a college savings account but they never get around to it. Individuals get stuck on a now versus later mindset, and it is difficult for people to imagine long term savings when the current costs are adding up. In order to avoid the action-goals gap, avoid providing more information and help individuals take specific actions towards the program goals. If a family wants to save for college, help them set up a specific savings plan. Connect them with a bank to open a savings account and offer a small deposit to get them started. 
  2. Decision Paralysis – When given too many options, people tend to make the easiest decision, which is often no decision at all.  Some programs offer great benefits, but the application process is cumbersome and overwhelming.  When was the last time that your nonprofit reviewed all of the steps you are asking clients to complete to receive your program and service?  Perhaps there are some items or steps that you can remove or condense to make it less difficult to enroll. 
  3. Personalization – People are more likely to respond to messages or services that are tailored to them. A one size fits all motto does not tailor to everyone. Individuals have different lifestyles and needs. So a program might benefit a variety of people, but what will attract them to the program to begin with and what will help each person along the process? Personal interactions with each client will help create a clear focus of the program and how it relates to and will benefit the client. 
  4. Herding – Behavior is impacted by what others are doing. We are social people and whether or not we realize it, we are socialized based on our environments.  If we learn about a neighbor enrolling their child in a camp, then we might do it as well.  We watch and listenA team leader showing direction.to what others do and often follow. There is a convenience factor here where people are comfortable with what they know.  Is your program leveraging the “social” aspect of your programs and services with your current clients and connections? If you have a college savings account program, are the parents who are contributing sharing that message so that the parents in their network realize that others are contributing and it’s a “normal” behavior to do so?
  5. Reciprocity – People have the inherent desire to help those who have helped them in some way. We like to “pay it back”.  If your nonprofit can help an individual or a group, there is a greater chance they will return the favor. They might participate in your fundraisers, join another program within your nonprofit, volunteer, or donate money.

There are many more behavioral economics principles to consider when developing, assessing or improving a program at your nonprofit. If you want to learn about more behavioral economics, visit the Common Cents Lab resources page. Want more help in reviewing your programming and thinking about how to enhance it, we can help! Contact Transform Consulting Group today!

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Is Your Non-profit a Cooperator or a Competitor?

harvard_collaborationWith the continued growth of non-profits over the past several years (as we recently discussed in this blog article), some organizations view themselves in competition with other community organizations.  While this might not be the intention of Executive Directors or board members, often non-profits are competing for funding, clients, and even volunteers. However, a new trend is starting to emerge where non-profits are cooperating in partnership and not competing.

Our office is doing a book club, and the current book that we are reading is Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant. In their research of exemplary non-profits across the nation, they identified six effective practices identified in all twelve high-performing non-profits.  One of the six effective practices identified is the importance of nurturing the non-profit networks.

All twelve exemplary organizations were not just focused on making their non-profit the best, but  working to build formal and informal non-profit networks to advance their mission and cause.  Some might think that this is contrary to what makes a high-performing non-profit (to focus externally instead of internally).

Benefits of Cultivating Non-profit Networks

  • Greater ability to impact social change
  • Increased workforce of allies with shared knowledge and skills
  • Expansion of funding opportunities through partnerships
  • Unified force working toward common goals
  • Extended support outside your organization
  • Increased public awareness

Are you interested in developing a non-profit network? Crutchfield and McLeod outline four strategies to nurture this network:

  1. Grow the pieFunders are very interested and supportive of joint partnerships for programming and services. Focus on expanding funding for the greater cause over your individual organization in order to achieve greater impact for the cause. This can be done through joint grant applications, redistributing funds to other organizations, or partnering with other non-profits in their fundraising efforts.  High-impact non-profits will often serve as the “backbone” fiscal support for the network.Team Unity Friends Meeting Partnership Concept
  2. Share knowledge – Consider other non-profits as allies and share your expertise, research, etc. to strengthen the system. In looking toward a collective impact model, having a network that is consistent with related knowledge only helps further the cause.
  3. Develop leadership – Often non-profits have one leader that holds all of the knowledge, including historical knowledge of trends and partnerships. It is essential to cultivate the leadership of the next generation across the network. Again, this strengthens the cause by increasing the capabilities of the workforce.
  4. Work in coalitions – Often the causes that non-profits are working to address are complex and multi-faceted. Once a non-profit network is established, the next step is to broaden the network. It takes a unified community to make change happen and to sustain its impact.

There is no question that leading a non-profit organization is a challenge, and the concept of developing a network of non-profits might seem too hard to conceptualize. Building a strong network of non-profits to collaborate with is a great strategy to expand the social impact of your cause. Looking to other non-profits as allies in the overarching goal of improving the community and offering your strengths to them will create a unified, cohesive network that together can mobilize the entire community and sustain a greater impact.

At Transform Consulting Group, we work with many non-profits on program development, which often includes an emphasis on cultivating partnerships with local organizations. If you are interested in learning more about cultivating partnerships and the collective impact model, contact us today for a free consultation!

 

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